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From Russia With Love 4: Specialization Is The Name of the Game. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Alexey Vasin, Za Rulem

December 4, 2014

On the banks of Moscow River and Kremlin Propelling a publishing company that was founded in 1928 into the uncertain magazine media future of today might seem like a daunting task, especially when at one time the magazine they published had a circulation of 5 million. Of course, in those years Za Rulem had the only auto magazine in the entire country (the former Soviet Union).

Today, Alexey Vasin, General Director of Za Rulem, has plans to bring the contemporary worlds of print and digital together and continue the success of his predecessors before him, if not surpassing them.

On my recent trip to Moscow, Alexey took time out of his busy schedule to speak with me about the many different extensions of the Za Rulem brand and the platforms being designed and offered to the audience. It was a very entertaining and enlightening discussion.

So sit back and enjoy the last installment of my first trip to Russia as you read the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Alexey Vasin, General Director, Za Rulem.

Alexey Vasin
Husni with Alexey Vasin, General Manager, Za Rulem

But first the sound-bites…

On Za Rulem, past and present: The publishing house of Za Rulem was founded in 1928 and published the magazine. It was the only auto magazine in Russia and the circulation of the magazine was 5 million. Now, it is still the leader of men’s auto magazines in Russia, with probably the largest audience among all the monthly men’s magazines.

On the future of print and digital within Za Rulem’s market: Right now, we are not very profitable in digital either. But it is still important and necessary, because the concept people have of getting information is changing.

On the biggest challenge they face going into the future: Other problems are moving from a printed press to other media. We also have some specialized challenges. For several years we’ve suffered from distribution problems, especially with the kiosks.

On whether he is enjoying his job more now or five years ago: Good question. It was always work, but now it has more tension. It is definitely more challenging than before, especially before the crisis.

On what keeps him up at night: (Laughs) Too many things to mention.

And now for the lightly edited conversation with Alexey Vasin, General Director of Za Rulem:

Samir Husni: Tell me a little about Za Rulem, past and present.

A. Vasin Alexey Vasin: The publishing house of Za Rulem was founded in 1928 and published the magazine. It was the only auto magazine in Russia and the circulation of the magazine was 5 million. Now, it is still the leader of men’s auto magazines in Russia, with probably the largest audience among all the monthly men’s magazines. There are about seven million readers of Za Rulem magazine and the circulation of the magazine is 114,000 monthly.

Za Rulem has four supplements: Moto magazine, the first motorcycle magazine in Russia, and one about logistics and trucks. And two supplements which will be issued in two weeks. We also have our regional newspaper, Za Rulem-Region, which is published in several regions with separate circulations, there are 22 regions in Latvia, but due to the economy, circulation has been reduced to five regions. Also, we publish books and catalogs on the auto topic. And they have many editions.

Za Rulem is actively developing digital. We have a website, which was launched in 1998, one of the first about automobiles in Russia. The audience of the website is about 2 million a month. In 2012, we created a mobile app for tablets and we also have an app suitable for Androids and iPads. We have also estimated that we are the best application for iPads in Russia.

Samir Husni: You mentioned that you started with a circulation of 5 million and now you’re at 114,000…

Alexey Vasin: (Laughs) Our parents started with 5 million. It was the only one at that time (during the Soviet Union era). The market was very different, an innocent time.

Samir Husni: As we are propelling into digital, where do you see the future of print fitting in? In the United States very few magazine companies are making any money from digital.

Alexey Vasin: Right now, we are not very profitable in digital either. But it is still important and necessary, because the concept people have of getting information is changing. And we have to provide our readers with information in the best and most suitable of ways. And concerning the commercial success of digital, we are not lonely in this movement.

Recently we attended a conference in London, where many interesting things about digital content was presented. And we hope that if we unite we will be successful. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy in the beginning.

Samir Husni: Five years ago, most publishers in the United States put their bets on the tablet, this is the future and this is where we’re going to get the money. And that did not happen. Now they’re saying it’s mobile.

Alexey Vasin: (Laughs) Well we haven’t invested all of our money in those things. But when it comes to content, we created a series of things.

Samir Husni: All of the predictions now are on specialized magazines; they will have the most prominent spot in the future.

Alexey Vasin: Such specialization has been here for many years. And talking about our market, we already have only auto magazines and there are even ones for particular models.

Samir Husni: Even with the motor magazines in the States we have specialized ones for baggers, the motorcycles that have bags on the sides.

Alexey Vasin: We are moving in that specialized direction. And, as I said, we are specialized already as we are all about vehicles of some type. And while many other magazines have their auto departments, we are concentrated only on autos.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest challenge you’re facing as you move toward the future?

Alexey Vasin: (Laughs) We have many obstacles. Some just in general with our market and some that are very particular. Speaking about the general ones, it is of course, the reduction of interest in print and switching audience attention to other channels of communication, such as digital.

But from the other side we have the potential for further development. We have the audience and we have the advertising budget.

Other problems are moving from a printed press to other media. We also have some specialized challenges. For several years we’ve suffered from distribution problems, especially with the kiosks.

Samir Husni: Yes, it seems like every publisher I’m meeting with, it’s the same: distribution and distribution.

Alexey Vasin: Yes, but when we are active on every channel of distribution, we have almost a 90% presence in Russia, which is one of the highest. So we can’t avoid the general market woes.

Samir Husni: If someone asked you: are you enjoying your job more or less than five years ago, what would you tell them? If you look at 2008; are you having more fun now or does it feel more like work?

Alexey Vasin: (Laughs) Good question. It was always work, but now it has more tension. It is definitely more challenging than before, especially before the crisis. But we are actively moving forward and managing to have a lot of fun and celebrations. (Laughs) It is interesting challenges though.

Samir Husni: Do you live the lifestyle of the magazine? Are you an avid car person or no?

Alexey Vasin: (Laughs) It is easy to be a motorist in Moscow, everyone has a car. There are some researchers from Europe and they found that only 12% of motorists are really into cars and this topic, so that is our target audience.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Alexey Vasin: (Laughs) Too many things to mention.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

And with this, From Russia With Love 4, I conclude my news, views and interviews regarding the Russian media. Until my next trip around the world and its many many magazine and magazine media outlets, here’s to a great magazine day.

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2 comments

  1. So intriguing – do they have competition? Great photo of you – very traditional.


  2. […] the whole article From Russia With Love 4: Specialization Is The Name of the Game. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview W… on the website Mr. […]



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